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Cal Fire: PG&E equipment caused 12 Northern California fires during October firestorm

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Cal Fire investigators said Friday that equipment owned and operated by PG&E ignited 12 wildfires that burned across Northern California in October, charring hundreds of square miles, destroying thousands of structures and killing 18 people.

Cal Fire found the utility was in violation of state code on 8 of those fires, failing to clear brush around its lines and properly maintain its power equipment.

The violations were found in fires that burned across Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties, according to Cal Fire.

In the other four fires, flames were ignited by power equipment but investigators found the utility company was not in violation of state regulations.

The report is the latest set of findings from state fire investigators examining the causes of dozens of fires that burned more than 245,000 acres in October. The findings do not include any determination on the Tubbs fire — the state’s most destructive — that burned from Calistoga into Santa Rosa.

In response, Pacific Gas and Electric Company issued a statement that “we look forward to the opportunity to carefully review the CAL FIRE reports to understand the agency’s perspectives.”

“Based on the information we have so far,” the statement continued, “we continue to believe our overall programs met our state’s high standards.”

The latest set of investigative reports involved the following fires:

The Redwood fire, in Mendocino County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 36,523 acres, destroying 543 structures. There were nine civilian fatalities and no injuries to firefighters. CAL FIRE has determined the fire started in two locations and was caused by tree or parts of trees falling onto PG&E power lines.

The Sulphur fire, in Lake County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 2,207 acres, destroying 162 structures. There were no injuries. Cal Fire investigators determined the fire was caused by the failure of a PG&E owned power pole, resulting in the power lines and equipment coming in contact with the ground.

The Cherokee fire, in Butte County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 8,417 acres, destroying 6 structures. There were no injuries. Cal Fire investigators have determined the cause of the fire was a result of tree limbs coming into contact with PG&E power lines.

The 37 fire, in Sonoma County, started the evening of Oct. 9 and burned a total of 1,660 acres, destroying 3 structures. There were no injuries. Cal Fire investigators have determined the cause of the fire was electrical and was associated with the PG&E distribution lines in the area.

The Blue fire, in Humboldt County, started the afternoon of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 20 acres. There were no injuries. CAL FIRE investigators have determined a PG&E power line conductor separated from a connector, causing the conductor to fall to the ground, starting the fire.

The Norrbom, Adobe, Partrick, Pythian and Nuns fires were part of a series of fires that merged in Sonoma and Napa counties. These fires started in the late-night hours of Oct. 8 and burned a combined total of 56,556 acres, destroying 1,355 structures. There were three civilian fatalities.

The findings:

— Norrbom fire: caused by a tree falling and coming in contact with PG&E power lines.

— Adobe fire: caused by a eucalyptus tree falling into a PG&E powerline.

— Partrick fire: caused by an oak tree falling into PG&E powerlines.

— Pythian fire: caused by a downed powerline after PG&E attempted to re-energize the line.

— Nuns fire: caused by a broken top of a tree coming in contact with a power line.

The Pocket fire, in Sonoma County, started the early morning hours of Oct. 9 and burned a total of 17,357 acres, destroying 6 structures. There were no injuries. Cal Fire has determined the fire was caused by the top of an oak tree breaking and coming into contact with PG&E power lines.

The Atlas fire, in Napa County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 51,624 acres, destroying 783 structures. There were six civilian fatalities. Cal Fire investigators determined the fire started in two locations. At one location, it was determined a large limb broke from a tree and came into contact with a PG&E power line. At the second location, investigators determined a tree fell into the same line.

Cal Fire investigations have been referred to the county District Attorney’s offices for review in eight of the 12 fires – Sulphur, Blue, Norrbom, Partrick, Pythian, Adobe, Pocket and Atlas – due to evidence of alleged violations of state law.